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New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 01-31-2017
Four March cultural recommendations from our editors.
Righteous Rage

For the critically acclaimed film I Am Not Your Negro, filmmaker Raoul Peck drew upon an unfinished manuscript by writer James Baldwin and archival footage to fashion a searing narration about race in America. Opens in theaters in February. Magnolia Pictures

People of the Book

In Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know, John Kaltner, a Rhodes College professor of Muslim-Christian relations, explains the basics of Islam, including frequently misunderstood practices. Originally released in 2003, this is a newly revised and expanded edition. Fortress Press

Multiplying Gifts

A Chicago church divided a financial windfall among its members, $500 each, telling them to use it to do good in God’s world. Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell tell the practical and inspiring lessons learned in Love Let Go: Radical Generosity for the Real World. Wm. B. Eerdmans

Displaced Prophets

Mishwar Music , by The Homsies, is a three-song EP recorded in a refugee camp in Akkar, Lebanon, with a team of youth from Homs, Syria. It is available for download on Bandcamp. mishwar.org

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 01-24-2017
Letters to the Editor from Sojourners readers
Spirit of Compassion

I read with great interest the article on Northmead Assembly of God’s Circle of Hope AIDS clinic in Zambia (“When the Spirit Comes Down,” by Wonsuk Ma, January 2017), because I spent six months in 2011 conducting research there with support groups for people living with HIV. Clinic clients I interviewed reaffirmed my observations about staff members’ dedication, often reporting that they were grateful that the clinic was in their low-income neighborhood. Most crucially, I noted how staff members showed acceptance and compassion toward all clients. While the clinic faces challenges—long lines, clients who sometimes do not adhere to their medications, excellent staff members who may be “poached” by other donors—it does important work in Zambia’s AIDS response.

Amy Patterson
Sewanee, Tennessee

Charismatic Failure

It is encouraging to hear about the good work being done in Pentecostal churches around the globe (“When the Spirit Comes Down”). However, there was not one word in the article about the plight of homosexuals living in these societies. These churches are often at the forefront of oppressing gay people in the name of religion. Until we all confront the horrific situation of gay people (ostracism, forced marriage, beatings, prison, and execution) in so many places, especially Africa and the Caribbean, I can’t take these churches or their brand of religion seriously.

Robin Van Liew
Holden, Massachusetts

Crowning Achievement?

Thank you for providing a magazine that I am able to count on for intelligence and sensitivity in both your writing and reporting. However, I must take exception to the claim that Elizabeth I “founded” the Anglican Church (“Entering my ‘Power Decade,’” by Catherine Woodiwiss, January 2017). While it is true she is credited for the eponymous settlement, those acts of Parliament did not “found” anything that did not already exist. They smoothed the waters so that the English church could proclaim the gospel in relative peace.

Carlton Kelley
Traverse City, Michigan

Hillbilly Business

I want to thank you for publishing the article by Susan K. Smith on John Rush in your December 2016 issue (“Can Business Be Beautiful?”). It presents a different (and more accurate) example of Appalachia than does J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy. As a born-and-bred hillbilly, I take great umbrage at Vance’s book. It is a very courageous memoir of one family, but that’s what it is—the story of one very dysfunctional family and the salutary effects of the Marines on one very mixed-up young man. Most poor and working-class Appalachians have not become as disoriented and dysfunctional as Vance’s family. Many of them, like Rush, have started enterprises of their own or are otherwise engaged at jobs they find rewarding. While not all these businesses are social enterprises as is Rush’s, they all nevertheless indicate successful adjustments to situations in which people find themselves.

Mike Smathers
Crossville, Tennessee

Assets in Heaven

Please do more articles on businesses that have doing good in the world as their bottom line (“Can Business Be Beautiful?”). Business owner John Rush makes a point about the profit-making business model that it is the love of money that is a problem, not having money itself. A current line of research, however, is showing that it isn’t as simple as that; money and decision-making power over others quickly reduce compassionate awareness and behavior. Jesus was right about wealth: Good motivations and intentions are not enough. Any condition that reduces our sense of shared vulnerability with others works against our ability to live lives of universal love.

Arden Mahlberg
Madison, Wisconsin

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 12-22-2016
Four February culture recommendations from our editors.
Wherever You Go ...

In Why Am I Here?, by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen and Akin Duzakin, a picture book for ages 5 to 9, a child ponders the many different places she could be: a huge city, an isolated forest, a war zone, fleeing to a strange land. A book that encourages empathy and acknowledges the big questions that kids ask themselves. Eerdmans

Faith for the Struggle

Shannon Daley-Harris, religious affairs adviser for the Children’s Defense Fund, offers scriptural meditations to inspire and sustain advocates and nurturers in Hope for the Future: Answering God’s Call to Justice for Our Children. Includes questions for faithful response. Westminster John Knox

No Easy Road

Activist and artist Anthony Papa writes about the challenges of rebuilding his life after serving 12 years for a nonviolent drug offense, his work to change oppressive drug-sentencing laws, and memories of prison in This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency15yearstolife.com

Life Out of Death

“I did not understand how people changed so much: Some became executioners, others became victims,” writes Holocaust survivor Magda Hollander-Lafon in Four Scraps of Bread, a slim volume of piercing, simple-yet-profound reflections on her journey through hell and back. Notre Dame Press

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 12-19-2016
Letters to the Editor from Sojourners readers
A Plateful of Good Stuff

“Game Changer?” by Rose Marie Berger in the December 2016 issue really challenges me as a Catholic. We are called to be a peace church. We are disciples of a nonviolent redeemer and liberator. I want to be nonviolent. It would mean that I have to love nonviolently. I cannot call anyone names. I should love the members of the other political party and work for unity. I should be a listener. I should advise military people to be conscientious objectors in violent affairs, and maybe more than that. I will love the veterans, as I presume they did what they did according to their conscience. I have a plateful of good stuff to do. Help me, dear Lord.

Rev. Anthony Kroll
Sauk Rapids, Minnesota

Those Who Have Ears ...

In the days following the ugliest election in my life (I was born in 1945), I have seen few, if any, commentaries on how this election impacted the children of America. Our kids hear our fears and anxieties, as well as what they hear on TV or radio, but they are not able to deal with and process those fears as are adults.

What is our Christian responsibility to help our children deal with and overcome the fear and anger they feel when they hear the president-elect denigrate minority groups and promote violence against those who disagree? This is truly a teachable moment in every house of worship, and not just for adults. Our kids are suffering, and we cannot let the words of a narcissistic bigot go unchallenged. I agree with everything Jim Wallis said (“Ministers of Reconciliation,” December 2016), but I urge us not to forget the children.

 

Bill Turney
Houston, Texas

Ministers of Inspiration?

I was thrilled to receive my first issue of Sojourners magazine and find Jim Wallis’s article titled “Ministers of Reconciliation.” I am grateful for the reassuring inspiration I derived from his words.

Rev. Dale Morris Lee
Denver, Colorado

A Heavy Hand

In your November 2016 issue, David Gushee writes of Americans yelling at each other about abortion and our polarization on the subject (“The Abortion Impasse”). But he shows his own polarization with the sentence, “Having actually held dead 18-week fetuses in my hands ... I think it is indeed a travesty that abortion is permitted in non-emergency circumstances as late as that.” I ask him: Have you ever held the hand of an 18-year-old girl dying of sepsis from a backstreet illegal abortion? I have. When abortion is not legal or the financial cost is too high, the poor seek out the unskilled—which can take weeks—while the wealthy go to other countries. Until we have a country that cares for and about all its citizens by lowering our high infant mortality rate and doing away with guns, wars, death penalties, and cop shootings, why should anyone worry about abortions? I think the answer is: It is a way to subjugate women. As Gloria Steinem says: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

Elizabeth Dunbar
South Hamilton, Massachusetts

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 12-05-2016
Four January culture recommendations from our editors.
Woman of Valor

Coretta Scott King walked alongside her husband Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights struggle—and kept on working for social justice after his assassination, until her death in 2006. My Life, My Love, My Legacy is her perspective, as told to Barbara Reynolds. Henry Holt

Come Together

In Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World, Leroy Barber draws from decades of ministry among diverse people to argue for the centrality of relationships across differences to achieving not just reconciliation, but true justice. Encouraging, openhearted words for divisive times. IVP Books

Testify

Sometimes, liberal Christians feel they need to apologize for the behavior of other Christians or churches. In Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting, writer and pastor Lillian Daniel encourages you instead to boldly tell your own story of faith and sacred relationship. Faith Words

Street Church

The Revolution Has Come , by Rev. Sekou & The Holy Ghost, was released in early 2016—but its gritty mix of R&B and gospel, freedom and resistance is more relevant every day. Activists/artists Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill met at a Black Lives Matter protest, and street movements permeate the songs. rshgmusic.com

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 12-02-2016
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers
Binary, Schminary

As a Caucasian who is passionate about race reconciliation, I was over-the-moon thrilled when I read the piece by Kathy Khang, “Opting Out of the Black-White Binary,” in the November 2016 issue. I have long advocated to move beyond the black-white binary, as it excludes so many others from entering the conversation or sharing their own struggles and experiences with racism. I can’t wait to share this with others or read the book she co-authored!

Shanna Seye
via email

New Life, Old Problems

The fact that only 20 percent of the members of Congress are women should be understood as evidence that women are not seen as intelligent and as capable of wise judgment as men (“Welcome to Post-Sexist America,” by Jim Rice, November 2016). Women possess intelligence and judgment because they are, like men, human persons.

A post-sexist America would reflect this truth in the make-up of our governing body. However, a post-sexist America would also be called upon to recognize and support women in the aspect of their humanity which men do not share—women’s ability to carry and give birth to new life. Yet in this matter America is woefully remiss. The United States ranks 61st in maternal health. The risk of maternal death is higher here than in any developed country. We rank 29th in infant mortality—behind Cuba. While seven babies out of 1,000 live births die by the age of 5 in America, only three babies out of 1,000 live births die in Singapore. Surely, these figures would change dramatically in a post-sexist America.

Tesse Hartigan Donnelly
Oak Park, Illinois

Why Not Pro-Love?

David Gushee’s article (“The Abortion Impasse,” November 2016) suggests that “reducing demand” for abortions is the only meaningful path forward for us. Perhaps we can expedite this as a people by reminding ourselves that the summum bonum, or “highest good,” as far as Christian ethics has been able to articulate it, is love. Not life. Not freedom. Love. The problem love recognizes is that to choose life or freedom sometimes means death to someone. Love maximizes both life and freedom and will also sacrifice both for love. We can only be “pro-choice” and “pro-life” by being “pro-love.”

Graham Hutchins
Port Angeles, Washington

God’s heart for justice

Thank you for having the courage to print Brandon Wrencher’s November 2016 “Living the Word.” I’m a 73-year-old white lady who didn’t begin to understand God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed, and justice until I was in my 40s. For about 20 years now, I’ve been sojourning mostly with black Christians, under black pastoral leadership, and studying a plethora of books by black authors. In the lives of my black friends I have seen the truths that Pastor Wrencher has brought to light. I’m praying that I can better articulate his concepts to my white brothers and sisters.

Carol Aucamp
St. Louis, Missouri

Clarification: The 1963 encyclical “Peace on Earth” was from Pope John XXIII, not from the Second Vatican Council as we stated in our December issue.

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 11-02-2016
Four December culture recommendations from our editors.
Meaghan O'Malley / Creative Commons

Meaghan O'Malley / Creative Commons

Refusing Silence

The documentary film The Uncondemned tells how a group of international lawyers and activists, all under 35 when they began, fought to get the first conviction of rape as a war crime—and how Rwandan women defied death threats to testify and win justice. theuncondemned.com

Welcoming the Light

In The Light of the World: Daily Meditations for Advent and Christmas, Phyllis Zagano, writer and scholar of Catholic spirituality and women’s leadership in the church, offers incisive reflections and prayers to help readers “become quieter, slower even, pointing to the Christ who is to come.” Twenty-Third Publications

Power-Pop Prophets

The Shondes, a queer, feminist pop-punk band from Brooklyn, weave activist fervor with progressive Jewish prophetic imagination and spirituality: “Hope can anchor any strategy,” is a telling lyric. The melodious songs on their new album, Brighton, soar with violin and Louisa Rachel Solomon’s clear, strong voice. Exotic Fever Records

Home in a Strange Land

Words in Transit: Stories of Immigrants is a book of oral histories from nearly 30 immigrants and refugees who have settled in western New England. Edited by Ilan Stavans, with photographs by Beth Reynolds, it presents snapshots of the courage and gifts that flow to our country. New England Public Radio

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 11-02-2016
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers
Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Gimme Shelter

I was glad to see “Convicted of the Gospel” by Darlene Nicgorski included in the September/October issue. The “ministry of sanctuary” that she mentioned is an important and timely way to show the world we are Christians through our love. I have been lobbying my members of Congress and letting them know why my faith motivates my advocacy. The faith voice is crucial to immigration reform’s success and is necessary if we want any reforms to reflect our beliefs in human dignity, equality, and justice. I hope that the church around the country will join in the sanctuary movement, whether it is through advocacy, charity, or sheltering those who face the immediate threat of deportation.

Thomas Cassidy
Norman, Oklahoma

Base Values

You cannot reform the police state or our culture of incarceration (“Black and Blue,” by Ryan Hammill, September/October 2016) without a critique of our country’s values that proliferate fear and aggression. It’s how we were built and how we’ve sustained our way of life. Until then, taxpayers need to demand transparency from law enforcement, stop the flow of tax dollars to militarize them, and advocate for laws to protect citizens—especially citizens of color.

Tamara Cedre
via Facebook

Prophets On the Loose

I read about the Tennessee weapons plant protest (“An 82-Year-Old Nun Did What?” by Rosalie Riegle, September/October 2016) in the news when it happened. I appreciate the update. I did not know that the “prophets of Oak Ridge” were released. Few realize the danger we all face; nuclear war cannot be allowed to happen. Pray for peace and the destruction of these weapons.

Jim Halliday
Lafayette, Georgia

From Just War to Just Peace

by The Editors 10-26-2016
An Appeal to the Roman Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence
Lee Nanjoo / Shutterstock.com

Lee Nanjoo / Shutterstock.com

A statement titled “An Appeal to the Roman Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence” was released at the conclusion of the Rome conference in April. More than 1,300 individuals and 170 organizations have endorsed its direction, including all the Catholic bishops of Japan.
 
The statement calls on the Catholic Church to:
 

1. Continue developing Catholic social teaching on nonviolence. In particular, we call on Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and just peace.

2. Integrate gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life, including the sacramental life, and work of the church through dioceses, parishes, agencies, schools, universities, seminaries, religious orders, voluntary associations, and others.

3. Promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies).

4. Initiate a global conversation on nonviolence within the church, with people of other faiths, and with the larger world to respond to the monumental crises of our time with the vision and strategies of nonviolence and just peace.

5. No longer use or teach “just war theory”; continue advocating for the abolition of war and nuclear weapons.

6. Lift up the prophetic voice of the church to challenge unjust world powers and to support and defend those nonviolent activists whose work for peace and justice puts their lives at risk.

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is a consortium of attendees from the Rome conference and others who are advocating for a papal encyclical on nonviolence. Read the full statement at nonviolencejustpeace.net.

Seven Elements of Just Peace

by The Editors 10-26-2016
So what exactly does "just peace" mean?
Ivonne Wierink / Shutterstock

Ivonne Wierink / Shutterstock

In April 2016, Roman Catholics from around the world gathered at the Vatican to discuss how the church might embrace the principles of nonviolence and just peace more deeply (see "Game Changer?" in the December 2016 issue of Sojourners.) 

And what does "just peace" include? Here are seven key principles:

Just cause: protecting, defending, and restoring the fundamental dignity of all human life and the common good

Right intention: aiming to create a positive peace

Participatory process: respecting human dignity by including societal stakeholders—state and nonstate actors as well as previous parties to the conflict

Right relationship: creating or restoring just social relationships both vertically and horizontally; strategic systemic change requires that horizontal and vertical relationships move in tandem on an equal basis

Reconciliation: a concept of justice that envisions a holistic healing of the wounds of war

Restoration: repair of the material, psychological, and spiritual human infrastructure

Sustainability: developing structures that can help peace endure over time

Adapted from “What Kind of Peace Do We Seek?” by Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at the Catholic University of America, in Peacebuilding (Orbis Books, 2010).

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